Blood Brothers, Blackpool Opera House
The shocking conclusion of Blood Brothers reminds me of another legendary production, Titanic. You know right from the start it will end in disaster, but you still will it not to happen - and even if you see it multiple times, the end feels equally unexpected and shocking.

This week Bill Kenwright’s UK tour is at the Winter Gardens Blackpool, and the staging of this final scene is even more tense than I remembered, with the audience on the edge of their seats.

Following in the footsteps of greats including Kiki Dee, Lyn Paul, Barbara Dickson, Petula Clark, Stephanie Lawrence and Nolan sisters Linda, Maureen, Denise and the late Bernie, Linzi Hateley steps expertly into the coveted shoes of Mrs Johnstone. She conveys the likeable, plucky, kind character with such skill and heartfelt singing you don’t condemn the desperate mother for giving one of her twins away. You just wish hard that she won't, and feel her pain at the consequences when she is terrified into letting him go.

Speaking about this iconic role Hateley said: “There are more these days than there used to be but there still are very few iconic female parts in musical theatre, where you think ‘I’d love to have a go at that at some point’. It’s got everything. It’s comedic, it’s incredibly tragic, she’s strong but she’s vulnerable - it has it all in one big package and it’s written so brilliantly by Willy Russell."

No wonder the award-winning Blood Brothers is known as the “standing ovation musical”. Since the show first opened at the Liverpool Playhouse in 1983, its power and popularity have never waned. Partly because its debates on rich versus poor and nature versus nurture will always be relevant, but mostly because Willy Russell’s script and songs weave comedy, sadness and anger together so seamlessly you’re swept on a rollercoaster of emotions from the second the curtain rises on the dead bodies of Mrs Johnstone’s twins.

Amidst timeless numbers including Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe, Shoes Upon The Table and the heart-rending Tell Me It’s Not True - and a set that adeptly divides the social classes beneath the Liverpool skyline - Mickey (the one she keeps), Eddie (the one taken by her baron boss Mrs Lyons) and Linda (their childhood friend) form a love triangle. Equally convincing as mischievous kids, lovelorn teens and doomed adults by Alexander Patmore, Joel Benedict and Danielle Corlass, the trio depict the coming of age theme beautifully, from the fun days when their bond felt unbreakable, to the reality and inequality of adult life when their beliefs are shattered.

For this is when the themes of nature versus nurture and superstition come into play. Even though the twins are constantly drawn to each other, their very different backgrounds separate them; with their discovery of who they are, and what they might have been, resulting in a foretold tragedy.

Paula Tappenden is perfectly cast as Mrs Lyons, the polar opposite of Mrs Johnstone, and Robbie Scotcher is excellent as the imposing narrator whose watchful presence and menacing vocals warn us of the impending doom.

Blood Brothers is entertaining, emotional, educational - and this is an unforgettable and first class production. Catch it while you can at Blackpool Opera House.

www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk/whats-on/blood-brothers